Admit it...we have all seen that one piece of high priced art with a splash of color or a single blob of paint and thought, "Well I even I could do that!" Or, "Who would pay that much for that thing that looks my kid did it?"
It's just a piece of art. What's it really worth?
Recently there was a whole lot of news about a piece of art based on a banana taped to a wall. You can read more here if you missed it: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/maurizio-cattelan-banana-explained-1732773
So, yeah. I struggle to find worth in a banana, but...even those artists with a splash of paint on a blank canvas or single banana taped to a wall have something to say. Sometimes, I choose not to listen to it, though. And that's ok. These artists still have value and worth in our society because they make us think, question, and want to learn more. That's worth something, right?
In most cases, though, I like to believe that when I buy art, that I am paying for the artist's time, practice, training, education, countless practice paintings and ruined canvases, brushes, paint, ruined clothes, studio rent, cheap coffee, and a myriad of other things that keep a "starving" artist (and their loved ones) alive.
As someone who has come to art later in life, I admit I struggle to price my own work sometimes. What's it worth?
Should I price each piece based on how much I love it? What about based on size? Or how long it took me to paint it? It's a tough question...and something artists hate to have to justify. I hate pricing my work. I hate thinking I need to justify what I do.
When people ask me what I do, I tend to lead with what I used to do. "I am a retired teacher and school administrator." In my head I'm thinking - "Geez, Rebecca - it's kinda what you went to college for and spent a lot of time and money getting a masters degree to do - duh. What's wrong with you?"
But what do you do now? You're so young? "Oh, I'm just an artist. I paint a lot of pet portraits. It's silly, I know."
Silly. At least that's how I feel sometimes about myself and my choices because it is WAY LESS stressful than teaching or being a principal!
So what am I? Just a silly artist? What's my art worth?
I've sold some pieces that I have loved for very little because I feel that art should be shared and loved by others. Knowing a painting of mine is going to be treasured brings me great joy and has value to me.
Joy isn't silly.
I've sold pet portraits based on size, but the time and effort that I put into an small 8x10 is often the same as that that I put into a much larger painting. I'm OK with that, because every commission deserves my best effort.
Working hard isn't silly.
I've quoted paintings based on the time I thought it would take me to complete the project, setting a reasonable hourly wage for myself, and then trying to stick to that timeline. Many times I find that I underestimated my time, but have found great joy in solving the challenges of each project, so it turns into an invaluable learning experience.
Learning and growing isn't silly.
I recently shared a quote with a friend that I have found helpful in most areas of my life. "When you learn how much you're worth, you'll stop giving people discounts." It's been easy for me to know my worth in relationships and feel confident in my worth and value in previous jobs. I don't let people discount my value in a relationship. I never let people discount my worth in previous jobs. So why do I discount myself by saying, "I'm just an artist?"
This art world, though. It's still feels new to me...even after four years. But while uncomfortable and new, it's not silly.
I think it's time I take my own advice. My art may not be worth as much as a banana taped to a wall, BUT what I do has value. There's value in bringing joy to people, there's value in working hard, there's value in challenging myself to learn and get better each day, there's value in helping a younger generation love art as much as I do!
Thanks to everyone who supports and loves me and my work! I'm going to stop "discounting" myself and what I do.
I am an artist.